Potty Training: When, Where and How

I set out today to write that cloth diapering post I promised. But before I knew what was happening I was writing about potty training. Wow, is that ever a subject.

It all started because someone mentioned  Infant Potty Training, also known as Elimination Communication, in a comment and I thought it deserved a plug in the diapering post. The idea behind EC is that by putting babies into diapers we train them to pee and poop in diapers. Can’t really argue with that. Then we try to re-train them to pee in the potty typically around the age of two, a notoriously stubborn and rebellious time. Also, no arguments, it’s a ridiculous method when you stop to think. Furthermore traditional peoples all over the world without access to Fuzzi Bunz or Huggies have managed not to live in a squalor of baby feces– how do they do it?

The answer is really more mama training than infant training. Supposedly when you pay very, very close attention to your baby you start to learn her cues for ‘about to pee.’ The best way to pay such close attention is to up the stakes and leave your baby diaperless, though they say it does not have to be an either/or. You also initiate by holding your babe over the toilet in a squat often (like every 30 minutes) while making a ‘pssss’ sound. If you put the time in for a few months, supposedly they can be mostly potty trained by 8-12 months.

I loved the idea, it makes perfect sense to me, and I really wanted to try it out. Or, more accurately, I wanted to want to. But I found mothering so crazy hard that I couldn’t fathom adding one more thing. On the site I linked to above I noticed a quote at the top on the page, apparently one of 101 Reasons to Practice EC, “”A diaperless baby turns the dullest shopping trip into an adventure in new territory.” I don’t know if they meant that the way it sounds to me, but what else could that mean? I personally don’t need any more adventure at the grocery store, particularly of the ‘wet clean up on aisle 3’ variety. I’m quite certain it would have been less work in the end, and I have talked to a few people who did it and loved it, so I know it works. But I just couldn’t get my head around the initial outlay of energy.

When my first born was 8 months old I did put a kiddie potty in the bathroom, thinking I would set her on that whenever I peed and that way she could learn without any particular extra work, just the way kids learn everything– by modelling. The first day she peed several times and I hastily patted myself on the back thinking I was so brilliant and had got my timing just right and was about ready to pack up the diapers. The next day, and forever afterwards until she was three years old, she could not or did not put anything else into that potty. Literally. As she got older I tried just leaving her diaper off whenever we were home, and she would ask for a diaper when she was ready to pee. I’m afraid that, even though I knew better given her incredibly defiant personality, I turned it into an issue by trying to coerce her to sit on the potty instead.  I never used force or punishment (though my MIL did, unsuccessfully, try bribery) but my girl is one smart cookie and I’m sure she gathered that I was very actively trying to get her to do something.

Here’s some advice– you cannot win a war with a defiant two year old about peeing. What you can and will do instead is drive home to her the point that yes, in fact, no matter what you do, she is in control.

As she grew past that 2yo defiance for the sake of defiance, she apparently lost track of that control though. She would sit on the potty diligently and say with dismay, “It’s not working.” When it finally did work she was jubilant, but I have to warn you new mamas who might think as I did that kids ‘potty train at 2’ (like it’s a 6 week event) that this process can be unbelievably long. My girl, at 4.5, still has accidents. Now her thing is that she doesn’t want to stop playing to go use the potty. She will sit there jiggling and dancing for literally an hour and then streak to the bathroom, pee dribbling out everywhere as she goes.

Our interactions go like this, daily:

Me: Hey, sweetie, it looks to me like you’re doing your I-need-to-pee dance. Why don’t you just go sit on the potty and see if anything comes out?

Her: No, mama. That’s not my I-need-to-pee dance, this is my I-need-to-pee dance. See? Back and forth instead of side to side.

At any rate, I guess my point is– try that infant pottying gig if you think you can! Maybe you can avoid all this nonsense. But for the rest of us, I am off to work up the cloth diapering post right now. I swear! No more tangents!